La restriction d’accès aux articles les plus récents des revues sous abonnement a été rétablie le 12 janvier 2021. Pour consulter ces articles, vous pouvez notamment passer par le portail de ressources numériques de l’une des 1 200 institutions partenaires ou abonnées d’Érudit. Plus d'informations

Comptes rendusReviews

Men at Play: A Working Understanding of Professional Hockey. By Michael A. Robidoux. (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001, 222.p. ISBN 0-7735-2169-0 cloth; ISBN 0-7735-2220-4 pbk). [Notice]

  • Corey Thorne

…plus d’informations

  • Corey Thorne
    University of Pennsylvania
    Philadelphia, PA

As a folklorist working in a kinesiology department, Michael Robidoux is a rarity who represents the truly interdisciplinary nature of folkloristics. Men at Play, based on his dissertation research at Memorial University of Newfoundland, is an ethnography of professional hockey that gives a serious attempt at understanding professional sport through the vision of its players — a folkloric approach to questions more typically reserved for sociologists and cultural theorists. As a former hockey player himself, Robidoux was able to follow a team of the American Hockey League (AHL) for one year and document and analyze the lives of its players. By focusing on these players and their interpretations, he debunks many of the myths of professional sport that are commonly presented in popular media and academic discourse. Robidoux’s introductory notes on ethnography and the insider/outsider dilemma make this text valuable as an instructional tool for learning how to begin fieldwork. While he includes a great deal of information on his relationship to the subject and to the players, he successfully uses this to situate his research and analysis. It is this personal connection that allows Robidoux to gain such a high level of access and to better interpret the material from the perception of the athletes. For example, he scrutinizes the complex problem of blanket accusations against hockey as violent, sexist, and homophobic. He demonstrates that these outward perceptions are not entirely held by its members and that, despite popular assumptions, professional sport is not an easy route to financial and social success for the vast majority of its players. In Chapter One, Robidoux draws on Marxist theory to examine the production of self in professional hockey. The goal here is to show how self-identity is related to occupation (production) and thus why the occupation of professional hockey becomes the primary identifying element of its members. He uses Marx to discuss the decreasing levels of individuality created by increasing control of labour forces in capitalist economies. Robidoux’s argument, however, is that despite this continuously increasing loss of control, individual players continue to find increasingly innovative ways to stamp their individuality onto their occupations, i.e., although professional hockey may be a highly regulated occupation where players are given little control over their lives, it is an arena of creative individuals who resist the hegemonic forces of the manufactured structure. Thus, through resistant forms of creation, there emerges an underlying artistic nature to hockey that works outside the controls of the capitalistic system. With the aid of Roland Barthes and Michael Foucault, Robidoux continues on to show us the hegemonic nature of professional hockey that leads players to an inaccurate understanding of individual power and control. It is this power imbalance that glorifies the physical nature of the body, that turns the body into a commodity, and that produces men who oftentimes lack the necessary skills to live independently once they leave the realm of hockey. Robidoux’s point is that the commodification of the young body devalues the importance of education and, despite popular notions of fame and fortune, leaves many young men stranded and bankrupt by the time they are thirty. Essentially, the body satisfies the industry yet corrodes the soul. He concludes: In order to properly interpret the role of hockey in Canadian society, Robidoux devotes Chapter Two to the history and development of hockey and sport in Canada. The initial question posed here is: “How does a game known primarily for its violence and speed represent a nation known internationally as a moderator of violence and disputes and, moreover, as unreasonably polite” (32)? While the disjuncture of violent …